Community Greening Initiative: UNRWA and the European Union open the first school garden in the West Bank [EN/AR] – occupied Palestinian territory
EASTERN JERUSALEM, November 10, 2022 – Today the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) opened a school garden at the UNRWA Beit Girls’ School Anan in the village of Beit Anan, northwest of Jerusalem, in the occupied West Bank. Alongside the children of the UNRWA Beit Anan girls’ school, the ceremony brought together the Head of EU Cooperation, Mr. Ibrahim Laafia, the Director of UNRWA Affairs in the West Bank, Mr. Adam Bouloukos and the head of UNRWA’s education program in the West Bank. , Mr Muawiya Amar.
“I like the umbrella area. I am so proud that my school is growing and evolving and that our efforts in the garden will continue for the next generation,” said Nassim, 13, a student from Beit Anan Girls’ School. “The sight of trees and flowers makes us feel positive and excited to learn,” she added.
Today’s garden opening launches EU UNRWA’s ‘Community Greening’ initiative which aims to transform the outdoor spaces of several UNRWA facilities. The project is designed to foster inclusion and create gathering spaces for the Palestinian refugee community. The initiative will produce, restore and preserve green spaces, while encouraging environmental awareness, nutrition education and relaxation, encouraging recycling, increasing physical and outdoor activity, stimulating social interaction and beautify neighborhoods.
UNRWA’s Director of West Bank Affairs, Mr. Adam Bouloukos, who thanked the generous and continued support of the EU to UNRWA, said: “This greening initiative is extremely important, not only to protect and restore green spaces, but also to encourage children to recognize that they are stewards of their environment. It amplifies feelings of responsibility and builds a greater sense of community. The Beit Anan Garden is the result of great efforts by the local community, students and teachers who have planted, painted walls and transformed the once desolate space into a safe and enjoyable space to learn and play,” he said. -he adds.
Rama, a ninth grade student at Beit Anan Girls’ School, said at the event, “The new vegetable garden helps us to plant different vegetables by ourselves. This garden is a long-term project that is not limited to a certain period of time. Some of us experience growing fruits and vegetables for the first time because we don’t have land to grow what we want. We feel comfortable and motivated here.
“Education plays a crucial role in shaping the future. This future faces major challenges due to climate change affecting every part of our world. Initiatives such as the Community Greening Initiative are important because they represent a proactive effort by students and their teachers to raise environmental awareness in their communities. This is in line with the EU’s commitment to encourage the education sector to take action to promote greener societies and a carbon neutral Europe by 2050. A commitment that the EU clearly expresses in ongoing COP27 discussions,” said EU Cooperation Chief Ibrahim Lafia.
Notes to editors:
Over 50% of Beit Anan’s population are refugees registered with UNRWA and the UNRWA Girls’ School, founded in 1956, serves both the refugee and non-refugee population of Beit Anan and the villages surrounding.
Beit ‘Anan is located in the “Biddu enclave”, a group of eight Palestinian villages in the West Bank surrounded to the south, east and west by the West Bank barrier. The barrier impedes access to the rest of the occupied West Bank, as well as to Jerusalem, to which the village has traditionally been closely linked economically, socially and culturally.
Entry is prohibited to all except permit holders. In addition to severely restricted mobility, these Palestinian communities have lost access to a significant portion of their land and livelihoods.
EU UNRWA’s ‘Community Greening’ initiative includes school gardens, health centers and community areas in UNRWA’s five areas of operation, namely Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In many UNRWA areas of operations, Palestinian refugees are exposed to violence, conflict and displacement and so far 2022 is the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank, on monthly average since that the United Nations began systematically counting deaths in 2005.
Since 1971, the strategic partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has been based on the common objective of supporting the human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestinian refugees and promoting stability in the Middle East.
Today, the EU is the largest multilateral provider of international aid to Palestinian refugees. Collectively, the EU and its Member States are also among the main contributors to the Agency’s emergency humanitarian appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs in the region.
In 2021, the EU signed a joint statement and the first multi-year financial commitment to UNRWA for the period 2021-2024, marking 50 years of partnership. In the joint statement, the EU pledges to continue to support UNRWA politically and to guarantee predictable, multi-annual financial resources to enable the agency to fulfill its mandate and provide its essential services to Palestinian refugees.
UNRWA settlements have become a symbol of security and peace for Palestinian refugees; therefore, the EU and UNRWA are determined to jointly contribute to these stable and safe spaces where they can come together as a community. For more than 50 years, the EU has established itself as a key strategic partner of the Agency, supporting UNRWA in its efforts to help Palestinian refugees realize their full potential despite their difficult situation. The partnership between the EU and UNRWA has evolved over time, with the EU and its Member States becoming the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestinian refugees.